The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

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by John Robbins

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Here, the man who started the "food revolution" with the million-plus-selling Diet for a New America, boldly posits that, collectively, our personal diet can save ourselves and the world. If, according to chaos theory, the beating of a butterfly's wing can cause a hurricane in another part of the world, try this out for chaotic cause and effect: monarch… See more details below


Here, the man who started the "food revolution" with the million-plus-selling Diet for a New America, boldly posits that, collectively, our personal diet can save ourselves and the world. If, according to chaos theory, the beating of a butterfly's wing can cause a hurricane in another part of the world, try this out for chaotic cause and effect: monarch butterflies are dying in droves due to genetically-engineered corn growing in the Midwest. There is also a direct correlation between the Big Mac in your hand and the mile-wide river now running across the North Pole. Learn the truth about foods we are eating that are, in Robbins' words, "unsafe on any plate."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Groomed to succeed his late father (cofounder of the world's largest ice cream company, Baskin-Robbins), bestselling author Robbins (Diet for a New America) chose to walk away from ice cream earnings for a "deeper dream," staying true to his belief in health and environment over corporate profit margins. Now chairman and director of several nonprofit organizations, Robbins offers compelling evidence to support his plant-based diet. Appalled by the proliferation of high-protein, fad diet books, he advocates eating locally, organically grown fruits and vegetables, incorporating whole grains and drinking lots of water while avoiding animal products and processed, refined and fatty foods. Divided into five ambiguously named parts ("Our Food, Our World"; "Our Food, Our Future"), this work nimbly covers such diverse topics as agricultural chemical pollution, the diet/disease connection, genetic engineering and inhumane corporate farming practices, while maintaining a conversational, nonjudgmental tone. Robbins's experience as a speaker and his use of personal anecdotes and persuasive arguments are complemented by several professional readers who frequently interject relevant statistics, information and research, both pro and con, including sometimes sarcastically read statements from the Cattlemen's Association, which will leave listeners thinking twice before picking up their next hamburger. Based on the Conari Press paperback (Forecasts, May 21). (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Robbins, author of the classic Diet for a New America, believes that plant-based nutrition and particularly vegan diets (free of meat, milk, and eggs) lead to long life and good health. Citing statistics, research studies, and selected quotes that extol the benefits of such diets, he also argues that animal products are responsible for such diseases as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Robbins deplores the inadequate sanitation and inspection in meat-processing plants and argues that many of the illnesses and stomach ailments that people complain about result from animal agriculture and the pathogens it introduces into our bodies. He also raises concerns about the dangers of fad diets that advocate high carbohydrates, high protein, or high fat. Robbins's zealous advocacy of plant-based nutrition and his refusal to consider the need for animal products in human nutrition throws his book off balance. Nevertheless, those who want to know more about vegan diets will gain many insights from his provocative book. Recommended for large nutrition collections with a diversity of viewpoints. [For more diet and nutrition books, see Anne Tomlin's "A Balanced Diet of Nutrition Resources" in LJ's May 1 consumer health supplement. Ed.] Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn College Lib., New York Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
6.01(w) x 9.02(h) x 1.16(d)

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Chapter One

What Is the Food

I was born into ice cream. Well, not literally, but just about. My father, Irv Robbins, founded, and for many years owned and ran what would become the world's largest ice cream company: Baskin-Robbins (31 Flavors). Along with my uncle, Burt Baskin, he built an empire, with thousands of stores worldwide and sales eventually measuring in the billions of dollars. We had an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool, our cats were named after ice cream flavors, and I sometimes ate ice cream for breakfast. Not all that surprisingly, many people in the family struggled with weight problems, my uncle died of a heart attack in his early fifties, my father developed serious diabetes and high blood pressure, and I was sick more often than not.

    None of that showed up on the balance sheets, however, and my father was grooming me to succeed him. I was his only son, and he expected me to follow in his footsteps. But things did not develop that way. I chose to leave behind the ice cream company and the money it represented, in order to take my own rocky road. I walked away from an opportunity to live a life of wealth to live a different kind of life, a life in which, I hoped, I might be able to be true to my values and learn to make a contribution to the well-being and happiness of others. It was a choice for integrity. Instead of the Great American Dream of financial success, I was pulled forward by a deeper dream.

    Explaining that kind of thing to my father, a conservative Republican businessman whosometimes drove a Rolls Royce and never to my knowledge went a day without reading the Wall Street Journal, was not easy. At one point I told him, "Look, Dad, it's a different world than when you grew up. The environment is deteriorating rapidly under the impact of human activities. Every two seconds somewhere on Earth a child dies of starvation while elsewhere there are abundant food resources going to waste. Do you see that for me, under these circumstances, inventing a thirty-second flavor just would not be an adequate response for my life?"

    My father was not pleased. He had worked hard his whole life and had achieved a level of financial success most people can only fantasize about, and he wanted to share his success and his company with his only son. From his point of view, I am sure, he got the only kid in the country who would turn down such a golden opportunity.

    But turn it down I did, and, hungering for connection to the natural world and life's deeper rhythms, I moved with my wife, Deo, in 1969, to a little island off the coast of British Columbia. There we proceeded to build a one-room log cabin, where we lived for the next ten years, growing most of our own food. We were financially poor, some years spending less than $1,000 total, but we were rich in love. Four years into our time on the island, our son Ocean was born into my hands. Deo and I are still lovingly together all these years later, by the way—a rarity in our generation.

    During this time we began to live by the values that would culminate, in 1987, with the publication of my book Diet for a New America. I was learning to perceive the immense toll exacted by the standard North American diet—and the benefits that might be gained by a shift in a healthier direction. I was learning that the same food choices that do so much to prevent disease—that give you the most vitality, the strongest immune system, and the greatest life expectancy—were also the ones that took the least toll on the environment, conserved our precious natural resources, and were the most compassionate toward our fellow creatures.

    In Diet for a New America I described what it was that pulled me away from the path my father had envisioned and prepared for me, and set me instead on the one I took:

"It's a dream of a success in which all beings share because it's founded on reverence for life. A dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a people living in accord with the natural laws of Creation, cherishing and caring for the environment, conserving nature instead of destroying it. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.

"This is not my dream alone. It is really the dream of all human beings who feel the plight of the Earth as their own, and sense our obligation to respect and protect the world in which we live. To some degree, all of us share in this dream. Yet few of us are satisfied that we are doing all that is needed to make it happen. Almost none of us are aware of just how powerfully our eating habits affect the possibility of this dream becoming a reality. We do not realize that one way or the other, how we eat has a tremendous impact."

    In Diet for a New America, I attempted to show in full detail the nature of this impact on our health, and in addition on the vigor of our society, on the health of our world, and on the well-being of its creatures. I had no idea, while writing that book, that it would become a bestseller. I never suspected that I would receive 75,000 letters from people who read the book or who heard me speak about its message. And even if I had known how widely the book would be read, and how deeply it would impact the course of many people's lives, I don't think I could ever have imagined that it might help to impact choices on a larger scale. In the five years immediately following the book's publication, beef consumption in the United States dropped nearly 20 percent.

    But in the last few years there's been a backlash. Fad diet books have sold millions of copies telling people they can lose weight and obtain optimum health while eating all the bacon and sausage they want. The U.S. meat industry has managed to divert attention away from the fact that the animals raised in modern factory farms are forced to endure conditions of almost unimaginable cruelty and deprivation. The USDA is proposing to irradiate increasing numbers of foods to combat the deadly food-borne diseases such as E. coli 0157:H7 that increasingly breed in today's factory farms and slaughterhouses.

    Rather than clean up the conditions that produce these pathogens in the first place, the U.S. meat industry has strongly supported food disparagement laws that make it illegal to criticize perishable food products, and then has used such legislation to sue those who challenge their control over your wallet. They even sued Oprah Winfrey for saying that, based on what she'd learned about meat production in the United States, she was never going to eat another burger.

    Meanwhile, the chemical industry has mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit organic food. And without the knowledge or consent of most Americans, two-thirds of the products on our supermarket shelves now contain genetically engineered ingredients.

    The debate about animal products and genetically engineered foods, and about their impact on our health and our world, is not going to go away. It will be fought in courtrooms and the media, but it will also be fought in people's minds, hearts, and kitchens. In the process, those seeking a more humane and sustainable way of life—for themselves and for our society—will be criticized and attacked by the industries that profit from activities that are harming people and the planet.

    As the discussion intensifies, so will the amount of information floating around. Some of it will be valid and rigorously accurate. And some of it will be the product of the public relations machinery of the industries that are selling unhealthy food and exploiting our world. I have written The Food Revolution because I believe that, given a chance, most people can tell the difference between the propaganda of industries whose entire intention is to promote and sell products, and data from researchers and scientists whose focus is the public interest.

    I have written The Food Revolution to provide solid, reliable information for the struggle to achieve a world where the health of people and the Earth community is more important than the profit margins of any industry, where basic human needs take precedence over corporate greed. I have written this book so that you might have clear information on which to base your food choices. It will show you how to attain greater health and respond more deeply from your connection to all of life.

    There is still strong in our society the belief that animals and the natural world have value only insofar as they can be converted into revenue. That nature is a commodity. And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.

    There are many of us, on the other hand, who believe that animals and the natural world have value by virtue of being alive. That Nature is a community to which we belong and to which we owe our lives. And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

    In 1962, Rachel Carson dedicated Silent Spring to the "host of people" who are "even now fighting the thousands of small battles that in the end will bring victory for sanity and common sense." I have written The Food Revolution because I believe that virtually every one of us, if given a chance, would choose to be one of those people and would make our lives, if we knew how, into statements of caring and compassion.

    I believe there is within every human being a desire to make choices that help create a healthier future for ourselves, for our children, and for our beleaguered planet and all the life it holds. This desire may be buried, it may be twisted, bent, and broken, it may seem all but destroyed, but it still remains, driving each of us even if from afar, hungering for an opportunity to be seen and heard and felt.

    Judging by what appears in the mass media, it would be easy to think that people are only interested in the most shallow and trivial of concerns, that all we want is to eat our burgers, that we couldn't care less about how our food is produced and what the consequences will be to our health and to the wider Earth community. But that's a grievous lie, and it dishonors who we are. The truth is, most people care about world hunger, they are deeply concerned about global warming, they abhor cruelty to animals, they know the planet is in crisis, they sense much of the food we eat in this society is unhealthy, they are alarmed about the uncertainties of genetic engineering, and they are looking for ways to express their caring and concern.

    I don't care whether you call yourself a vegetarian, a vegan, or an asparagus. I care whether you live in accord with your values, whether your life has integrity and purpose, whether you act with compassion for yourself and for all of life.

    I don't care whether your diet is politically correct. I care whether your food choices are consistent with your love. I care whether they bring you health, uphold your spirit, and help you to fulfill your true nature and reason for being alive.

    The truth, as has been said countless times, will set you free. But what is said far less often is that sometimes it first will make you confront habits of behavior and thought that might be limiting you, so that you might attain the awareness to use your freedom for the benefit of your greater self and all of life.

    Not that long ago, the average American mother would have been more concerned to learn that her son or daughter was becoming a vegetarian than to learn that he or she was taking up smoking. Not that long ago, organic food products could only be found in specialty stores. Blood cholesterol levels of 300 milligrams per deciliter were considered normal, and patients in hospital coronary care units were fed bacon and eggs, and white toast with margarine and jam for breakfast. Not that long ago, people who ate food that was healthy, environmentally friendly, and caused no animals to suffer were considered health nuts, while those who ate food that caused disease, took a staggering toll on the resource base, and depended on immense animal suffering were considered normal. But all this is changing.

    The revolution sweeping our relationship to our food and our world, I believe, is part of an historical imperative. This is what happens when the human spirit is activated. One hundred and fifty years ago, slavery was legal in the United States. One hundred years ago, women could not vote in most states. Eighty years ago, there were no laws in the United States against any form of child abuse. Fifty years ago, we had no Civil Rights Act, no Clean Air or Clean Water legislation, no Endangered Species Act. Today, millions of people are refusing to buy clothes and shoes made in sweatshops and are seeking to live healthier and more Earth-friendly lifestyles. In the last fifteen years alone, as people in the United States have realized how cruelly veal calves are treated, veal consumption has dropped 62 percent.

    I don't believe we are isolated consumers, alienated from what gives life, and condemned to make a terrible mess of things on this planet. I believe we are human beings, flawed but learning, stumbling but somehow making our way toward wisdom, sometimes ignorant but learning through it all to live with respect for ourselves, for each other, and for the whole Earth community.

    I have written The Food Revolution in the belief that—wounded and human as we are—we can still create a thriving and sustainable way of life for all. The restorative powers of both the human body and the Earth are immense.

    When I walked away from Baskin-Robbins and the money it represented, I did so because I knew there was a deeper dream. I did it because I knew that with all the reasons that each of us has to despair and become cynical, there still beats in our common heart our deepest prayers for a better life and a more loving world.

    When I look out into the world, I see the forces that would bring us disaster. I see the deep night of unthinkable cruelty and blindness. But I also look within the human heart and find something of love there, something that cares and shines out into the dark universe like a bright beacon. And in the shining of that light, I feel the dreams and prayers of all beings. In the shining of that beacon I feel all of our hopes for a better future, and the strength to do what we are here to do.

    May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved.

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